Lady Blackadder, who hated and despised her lord, foolishly played into his hands. She never really went wrong, so her friends stoutly averred, especially her sister Claire, a staunch and loyal soul, but she gave a handle to innuendo, and more than once allowed appearances to go against her.
There was one very awkward story that could not be disproved as it was told, and in the upshot convicted her. It was clearly shown in evidence that she had made up her mind to leave Lord Blackadder; more, that she meant to elope with Major Forrester. It was said, but not so positively, that she had met him at Victoria Station; they were seen there together, had travelled by the same train, and there was a strong presumption that they had arrived together at Brighton; one or two railway officials deposed to the fact.
Lady Blackadder denied this entirely, and gave a very different complexion to the story. She had gone to Brighton; yes, but quite alone. Major Forrester had seen her off, no doubt, but they had parted at the carriage door. Her visit to Brighton had been for the purpose of seeing and staying with an old servant, once a very confidential maid for whom she had a great liking, and had often taken refuge with when worried and in trouble. She thought, perhaps, to make this the first stage in the rupture with my lord.
This maid had earnestly adjured her not to break with her husband, and to return to Grosvenor Square.
This flight was the head and corner-stone of Lady Blackadder’s offending. It was interpreted into guilt of the most heinous kind; the evidence in support of it seemed overwhelming. Witnesses swore positively to the companionship of Major Forrester, both at Victoria and Brighton, and it was to be fairly assumed that they were at the latter place together.
No rebutting evidence was forthcoming. The maid, a woman married to an ex-French or Swiss courier, by name Bruel, could not be produced, simply because she could not be found in Brighton. They were supposed to be settled there as lodging-house keepers, but they had not resided long enough to be in the Directory, and their address was not known. Lord Blackadder’s case was that they were pure myths, they had never had any tangible existence, but were only imported into the case to support an ingenious but untenable defence.
It was more than hinted that they had been spirited away, and they were not the first material witnesses, it was hinted, in an intricate case, conducted by Messrs. Gadecker and Gobye, who had mysteriously disappeared. So the plausible, nay, completely satisfactory explanation of Lady Blackadder’s visit to Brighton could not be put forward, much less established, and there was no sort of hope for her. She lost her case in the absence of the Bruels, man and wife. The verdict was for Lord Blackadder, and he was adjudged to have the care and custody of the child, the infant Viscount Aspdale.